The Intent of the Religious Studies curriculum is to help students learn about the world around them and how they fit into it. We follow the Gloucestershire Agreed Syllabus and aim to “prepare children and young people in Gloucestershire for life in a twenty-first century world.” (p2)
We believe RS plays a vital role in the development of our students, ensuring that by the time their education at Dene Magna is over, they are able to make judgements and contributions to the world around them. At Dene Magna, we hope students, when they become adults, will leave the Forest of Dean, discover the world and then return to pass on their wisdom to future generations. RS at Dene Magna aims to make that goal less daunting and more achievable through the use of the Gloucestershire Agreed Syllabus.
The Gloucestershire Agreed Syllabus states:
“The principal aim of religious education is to explore what people believe and what difference this makes to how they live, so that pupils can gain the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to handle questions raised by religion and belief, reflecting on their own ideas and ways of living.” (P7)
The Forest of Dean has limited religious diversity. However we have access to more diverse communities in Gloucester and also in the larger conurbations that surround the Forest. This environment means it is imperative to ‘bring the world’ to our students and RS at Dene Magna plays a central role in developing that cultural awareness and understanding of the modern world and its plurality of beliefs - adhering to the principle aim of the Gloucestershire Agreed Syllabus mentioned above.
During lockdown, students continued to follow the RS curriculum. They were able to be exposed to a variety of fantastic online resources and stimuli. However, there was an impact on their ability to discuss issues and explore their beliefs and responses to issues with others. Regaining their confidence, understanding of the skills and ‘etiquette’ of discussion and interaction with others has formed a core part of our response to the lockdown. Lockdown has drawn into sharp focus ethical issues and understanding of community and our place within it, so therefore, although KS4 Core RS students still have many lessons of discrete RS, we have temporarily allocated some KS4 time to building on our RSHE timetable (increasing it to one hour per week) with the aim of improving their understanding of healthy relationships, which is still integral and important to meet their spiritual needs.
While learning about both theist and atheist beliefs and practices, students will be challenged to construct well thought out, balanced arguments about ideas and concepts. They will be taught not just about specific religions but also expected to thoroughly engage in thought provoking and challenging topics such as the existence of a god or gods, the afterlife and human suffering.
The Gloucestershire Agreed Syllabus states that in KS3,
“Pupils should be taught knowledge, skills and understanding through learning about Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists. Pupils should also encounter non-religious worldviews such as Humanism, and may encounter other religions and worldviews in thematic units where appropriate.”.
We introduce our KS3 students to the main religions of the world, beginning with Christianity and incorporating the other world religions and views mentioned above. They are also introduced to philosophy and ethics through thematic work, on topics such as Death and Afterlife, for example. By the end of KS3, our intention is that they will have good knowledge of religious thoughts and ideas, an understanding of difficult philosophical concepts as well as an ability to reflect on their own thoughts and beliefs.
In KS4 all students are given the opportunity to learn GCSE Religious Studies, of which there is a strong take up. For those that don’t, they attend core RS lessons (currently one per fortnight as explained earlier) where students learn about a whole range of moral and ethical issues relevant to the lives of our students, and which focus mainly on Christian, Islamic and other worldview opinions as mentioned in the Gloucestershire Agreed Syllabus: ‘Two religions are required, usually including Christianity. This will be through a course in Religious Studies (p12). The intention is to help them develop an understanding that there is not always a “right answer”, and that life can throw up many challenges which they may have to deal with as adults. We intend to equip them with the knowledge they may need and an understanding of different thoughts and ideas from a religious perspective, mainly, but not solely, based on Christianity as the main religion of the UK and Islam and other religions or world views.
The GCSE syllabus aims to develop knowledge and understanding of Christianity and Islam. GCSE students learn the importance of understanding the faiths and practices of others and how sources of wisdom and authority play a guiding role in people’s lives. Students also study Religion, Philosophy and Ethics in the modern world and focus on topics such as war, medical ethics and different types of relationships. Studying these topics allows students to gain an understanding of the world around them. Students also develop skills in analysis and evaluation. The teaching and learning of the GCSE is supportive whilst encouraging independent learning and initiative. These are some of the vital skills needed to flourish both academically and personally in the Sixth Form.
In KS5, students, alongside studying for their EPQ, also have off-timetable days where religion is focused on alongside ethical issues such as sex and relationships and matters such as the environment and peace and justice. The focus is on Christianity and other world views as stated in the Gloucestershire Agreed Syllabus.